Compost Tumbler Update

My dad and I put the finishing touches on my new DIY compost tumbler this week, and the system is now “officially” up and running. My first batch of waste materials consists of an assortment of stuff I just happened to have available – weeds, wet cardboard drink trays, coffee filters (with some coffee mixed in), and a bag of food waste (that came from my freezer). It certainly isn’t what I’d call an “optimized” batch (as the whole apple in the picture demonstrates quite effectively – haha), but I really wanted to get things rolling (yuk, yuk!) in terms of testing this puppy out!

As promised in one of my comments on the last tumbler post (see Compost Tumbler Vermicomposting), I do want to share a bit more background info about this compost tumbler project (how it came to be in the first place etc), and let you know where I am taking things from here.

In all honesty, it’s only been within the last few years (max) that I’ve had any real interest in compost tumblers at all! I’ve always thought of them as over-hyped, overly-expensive systems that probably don’t even live up to their promises etc. The fact that my main interest has always been vermicomposting likely played a role as well – since, as mentioned in previous posts, these systems aren’t ideally suited for effective vermicomposting (if used in the way they are intended to be used).

My opinion did gradually change, however, once I started coming across some of the nifty DIY tumblers people had made for themselves and posted videos about on YouTube. It looked as though compost tumbling might indeed be within reach for the average person who, surprise surprise, didn’t feel like shelling out hundreds of dollars! I also started to see some of the potential for using a tumbler as a sort of “food preparation system” (or “pre-composting” system if you prefer) prior to adding the materials to one’s worm bins/beds.

Nevertheless, actually tackling a DIY tumbler project still seemed out of reach for me given my fairly limited building skills – so I just ended up thinking of it as a potential “some day” endeavor.

All this changed when I received an email from a gentleman named Bob O’Donnell (back in February), asking if I might have an interest in some form of collaboration. Bob, a retired restaurant manager living in southern New Hampshire, has been quietly (but successfully) selling a set of compost tumbler building instructions – created based on the tumbler he built more than 20 years ago and has been using ever since – for quite some time. He happened to stumble across my Compost Guy website, and the rest is history.

Bob was kind enough to send me a copy of his guide, and I decided almost immediately that the first thing to do was to see if this was even the sort of project a DIY-clutz like myself (with help from a slightly more DIY- comfortable dad, mind you) could complete successfully. Given Bob’s friendly, conversational writing style and his easy-to-follow instructions I was fairly optimistic!

We did end up veering off from the original design in a number of ways, but I’m still confident that Bob’s system is something a lot of people (including non-DIYers like myself) could build without too much trouble. As for this potential “collaboration” mentioned earlier – based on our success (building the tumbler), I thought it would be cool to put together a small video series and bundle it with Bob’s original guide. As you might imagine, this isn’t something I can just offer for free – but I’m happy to report that everything (including all future updates etc) will be available for less than $15.

I really enjoyed Bob’s guide on its own (and he tells me he’s had zero refunds the entire time he’s been selling it), and his design has certainly stood the test of time – but I also think that sharing my own perspective (as a vermicomposter, non-DIY guy etc) and experiences from our tumbler project will help to make this an even more valuable resource.

Anyway – just wanted to provide people with a “heads-up” about all this! Hoping to have the initial package (will definitely be adding more over time) available quite soon – will share more details once it is ready to roll.

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    • Steve L.
    • June 30, 2011

    hmmm… I see a project worming it’s way onto my to-do list. This year I’ve gone to pre-composting materials for worm food, and it’s a great way to provide a more ready-to-eat product for the worms. I’ve read (on this site and others) that it is largely due to the much higher micro population that is decomposing the material. Whatever it is, it seems to work as my worms are in the food stock much faster then when putting in fresh scraps.
    Again, that is a nice tumbler. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ted
    • July 2, 2011

    I know there’s no worms inside, but because of the rotting food scraps, would the leachate

    • Ted
    • July 2, 2011

    Sorry, wrong button.

    Would the leachate from the rotting scraps, make a somewhat good plant food If drained somehow?

    • Bentley
    • July 2, 2011

    STEVE – tumbling would definitely be a great way to get the microbial population going! I can’t wait to start testing out some of this stuff in my worm beds. Will certainly keep everyone posted!
    TED – It would likely be similar to the leachate from a fairly new worm bin. There would certainly be nutrients in there, but there also might be some harmful compounds. Make sure to mix with water and/or aerate. Not sure enough would ever drain out though.

    • synelg
    • July 11, 2011

    I have two MOUNTAINS of wood-chips to deal with. Several cubic metres. I might be able to get hold of an old concrete-mixer. Do you think this would be suitable for mixing the chips with manure and nitrogen-containing liquids before piling it somewhere to age?

    • Bentley
    • July 13, 2011

    I think a concrete mixer would be an excellent way to mix everything up!

    • Jesse
    • September 13, 2011

    I have built my own tumbler and start getting fines falling out through the door in as little as two weeks in the summer. However my girlfriend has complained that she doesn’t think the fines I sift out are fine enough. I think I just found my solution.

    Question though:
    I’ve taken so much work out of composting by building my own tumbler (about to get a gear reduction upgrade) and wheelbarrow mounted trommel sifter, that I can’t wrap my head around having a continuous vertical flow and having to lift and move and switch and remove product and add more compost to the top. I’m working to make my whole compost process flow through where greens and browns go in daily, and fines come out nonstop. But how could I apply worms to this process and keep a continuous flow? I’ve google’d for days and don’t yet see anything that looks like what I could imagine I’m looking for. What advise have you?

    • Jesse
    • September 15, 2011

    I just found my answer here, the VermBin24. I will look into it thank you!

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